Ever since I saw “Cloverfield” in theaters, I have been dreaming of its sequel. And it is nothing like I expected. Rumors of a parallel found footage film of the same events shot from another angle sounded incredible but the sequel that actually came to fruition aspired beyond a retelling of the original. “10 Cloverfield Lane” is barely connected to its predecessor but delivers the thrills that we were promised. The film sets its tone with a stunning opening sequence that creates a heightened sense of being trapped through its musical score and amplified sound fx. Even though we are drawn in by the mystery of what may be happening to the world (if anything), the film is actually about being a victim. This underlying theme takes many forms throughout the film and you won’t even realize it until the end credits begin to role. Unlike the effects-driven story of “Cloverfield,” this story relies completely on the incredible performances by John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr. The film would fall flat with anything less than virtuosic acting and all three thrive as the script peels away each layer of their personality. The film creates a fascinating mystery outside of the bunker and yet, the true mystery lies within Goodman’s character. I know that he won’t earn an Oscar nomination for this performance but he deserves to be there. I love the normalcy throughout the set as the outside world seems to fall apart. The inclusion of oldies is reminiscent of J.J. Abrams’ work on “Lost” and I can’t help but wonder about the significance of these songs in his films. As the mystery descended deeper and deeper, my worry of an unsatisfying conclusion grew stronger. The ending has definitely been the most controversial part of this movie and it took several days to properly form an opinion on it. While it may seem disjointed from the rest of the story, I actually think that it is the only proper way to end the character’s journey. There are plenty of articles out there to spoil the ending for you so I won’t dig in too deep, but I feel that anything predictable would leave an incomplete story arc. Once you reflect on the film, you will realize that the character’s transformation happens much later than you initially thought, further necessitating the shocking finale. I am still trying to figure out how this film is connected to the original but does it really matter? “10 Cloverfield Lane” is a seminar in impressive acting, chilling dialogue, endless layers of mystery, and an empowering moral. Maybe we will understand its relationship to a found-footage monster film someday but until then, it stands strong on its own.
[Pictured: This film is so tense that it will leave your stomach in knots.]